State looks to spend $1B to address encampments

Encampments in Washington pop up quicker than the state can clear them, and officials in the Governor's office hope a $1 billion investment into housing will help fix the issue.

Friday, WSDOT and Seattle Police worked to clear out charred debris from the encampment where a massive fire burned last week.

Documents say a battle between rival camp leaders, that included explosives, drugs, and guns, led to a brush fire burning off the I-5 exit near Harborview Medical Center.

A week later, state and city crews cleaned up the debris from the camp.


Docs: Homemade explosives at Seattle homeless camp may have caused massive blaze along I-5

According to a police report, it's believed the fire was started by a former "leader" of the camp set off homemade bombs around the tents as an act of revenge.

However, the state’s efforts to clean up encampments extend past this fire.

According to data FOX 13 News obtained, the state cleared out 515 camps in 2022

However, the data shows there were 2,121 encampments documented statewide.

At that rate, it would take about four years to clean up every single encampment, assuming no new ones popped up.

However, according to the state’s data, it is possible the number of cleanups in 2022 includes repeat locations.

FOX 13 News asked the governor’s office how the state can catch up with the problem.

Officials say the answer comes down to more money.

Governor Jay Inslee requested $4 billion, spread over six years, for housing this past legislative session. 

Instead, lawmakers ruled to put $1 billion, over the next two years, toward housing. That is the most money ever put toward the issue, Mike Faulk with the governor’s office said.

However, he said those investments need to continue to happen to help fix the problem.

State officials say the encampment cleanup at the site of the fire, was due to the criminal activity connected to the site. State officials worked with the Seattle Police Department because of the dangerous nature of this encampment, they said.

State officials say the cleanup is expected to continue into next week.